Austin City Council to evaluate employment of City Manager Cronk in wake of ice storm

Austin City Council will take up an emergency agenda item this Thursday to evaluate the employment of Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk in the wake of the ice storm that left nearly 200,000 people without power.

Austin Mayor Kirk Watson tweeted Monday afternoon, "To all our Austin citizens who are furious about the ongoing power outage, you're right. There must be accountability."

He says he added the emergency agenda item this morning because "the management of this situation and the lack of clear, timely and accurate communication has left our community in the dark."

Council Members Alison Alter, Chito Vela and Vanessa Fuentes co-sponsored the emergency item.

"The city failed to respond in a timely and effective manner to yet another disaster. We must move to rebuild confidence and restore trust," Council Member Alter said.

"The City's inadequate response to this ice storm is beyond frustrating. My colleagues and I are taking action and will do whatever it takes to rebuild our community's trust, including assessing our City Manager's performance. It's time for solutions and accountability, not excuses," Council Member Fuentes said.

On Wednesday, around 40% of the city was without power. Midday Monday, around 4% of the city is without power, which is still over 20,000 customers. 

The remaining customers left in the dark were recently told via text from Austin Energy saying they expect to restore power to nearly all remaining customers by Sunday, February 12. That timeline is not set in stone because forecasted inclement weather could change that timeline.

City Manager Cronk did not respond to any direct requests to comment on council member comments. He did hold two press conferences to address the ongoing efforts to restore power to those remaining customers and added the city must do better to prepare itself.

"Our sole focus is on this response to this historic winter event, and we will not rest until we have every single one of our customers with power again. This is an event that we have never seen before, and we need to support our crews," said City Manager Cronk.

The City Council discussion evaluating Cronk's job performance will be held in executive session.

Since Feb. 2, Mayor Watson has repeatedly said that he's "frustrated" by the power outages and the lack of communication from the City.

"Our city let us down. Absolutely. There's no question about it, and if I was in the position of some of our leaders, I'd feel ashamed of myself to be honest," said Bakari Yancy, Austin Energy customer. 

Yancy says he is frustrated and mentally drained after being without power for six days.

"Been pretty tough," he said.

He says it all started for him Wednesday morning. He says he has been in the dark ever since.

Yancy says he has not had much communication from Austin Energy except from the text message he and many other customers received revealing power should be restored to nearly all remaining customers by Sunday.

"That was totally devastating to wake up to," he said.

Luckily, Yancy’s lights came on after almost a week without power, but thousands still remain in the dark

"I've been lucky enough to have a generator. I bought a generator after the last time we had the big freeze in 2021," said Grant Scanlen, who says he learned his lesson.

Like so many other Austin residents, Scanlen has been without power since Wednesday.

"Devastated, deflated, broken. [Austin Energy] have said that they have repaired all the main outages, and yet this neighborhood has 550 customers that still don't have help. I would say that's a major outage," he said.

The Austin City Council meeting will take place Thursday, February 9.